[Large Group of Rare Albumen Photographs, Mounted on Linen, Many Captioned, Featuring Native Americans of the Western Plains]

[Various locations, mostly Indian Territory, Kansas, and Nebraska: ca. 1880s and 1890s]. 127 albumen photographs, measuring between 3.75 x 2.75 inches and 8 x 5 inches, most around 5.5 x 4 inches, all but two affixed to original linen mounts, about half captioned in pencil on the mounts, a handful captioned in the negative. A well-worn collection of images, with occasional fading, and all of the images exhibiting varying levels of dust-soiling and staining to the images and mounts, about twenty-five exhibiting mostly minor chipping, a dozen with significant chipping partially obstructing the subjects, and another dozen with mostly minor chipping or flaking of the emulsion within the image area. Most of the mounts exhibit some level of chipping, which is also mostly minor. Good. Item #3790

A remarkable collection of original photographs featuring Native American subjects in modern-day Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, taken by a variety of notable photographers devoted to documenting Native American peoples of the American plains. The nature of the images, emanating from different photographers, being mounted on linen, with occasional penciled numbers on the mounts, suggest they were likely carried by an itinerant photographer or were retained by a studio as salesman samples or mounted on a post in a point-of-sale sample book to be reproduced as orders were made; this is evidenced by tiny slits in the linen mounts where they may have been mounted. Another possibility is that the images were collected, mounted on linen, and then bound into an album by a collector or owner interested in Native American photography, but this does not explain the numbering system unless they relate to a personal inventory. If the photographs were employed by a studio, photographer, or photographer's agent, this would help explain the condition in which the photographs exist today, as they were likely handled frequently. In fact, some of the loss to the top edges, which is seen in numerous photographs here, may have resulted from handling wear to the point where the images were ripped off their post or string or similar binding material. After deep research in which we spent several hours searching online collections and in print resources, we have located examples of numerous images in the present collection, but not remotely all of them. In addition, with penciled captions to many examples identifying the subjects, it is possible that some percentage of previously-unknown indigenous subjects could be identified by the captions included here. We are reasonably comfortable in saying that the present collection is likely comprised of some unique or certainly exceedingly-rare and certainly-uncommon photographs of Plains Indians. This challenge is typified by two slightly different images of an Osage War Dance, likely taken seconds apart from each other; the pencil caption of one image is partially readable - "after the Osage gohst [sic, ghost dance]" and the other is uncaptioned but features the same subjects. We located similar examples of this image by George W. Parsons, but none that exactly fit the particular composition of either example present here.

In addition to Parsons, the photographers represented here include Tom M. Concannon, William S. Prettyman, Edric L. Eaton, Carl Moon, Oscar Drum, and most likely others, providing a broad range of photographic points of view. The subjects of the photographs hail from various nations, including the Osage, Delaware, Pawnee, Sioux, Cheyenne, and perhaps others. The images capture these indigenous subjects in studio settings, and feature them individually, in pairs, in family groups, and a few in full family groups or parents with children. The overwhelming majority of the images feature the men, women, and children in traditional dress, including patterned shirts, vests, pants, and dresses, as well as blankets, animal pelts, beadwork and other jewelry, and a variety of traditional hair styles, head wear, neck wear, and foot wear. The men are seen occasionally holding fans, pipes, walking sticks, and various edged weapons. Without exception, the subjects display stoic facial expressions, often staring blankly directly into the camera.

Particularly interesting is a photograph taken indoors of a Native American man with his arms crossed in front of his waist. The caption in the negative, scratched sideways over the blanket wrapped around him reads, "Chief of the Osages" with the date "1892" captioned in the negative at lower left. The man is a ringer for Osage Chief Hard Rope, though he passed away in Indian Territory in 1883. The image may have been printed later, with the caption added to honor the long-deceased Osage chieftain. Other uncaptioned photographs for which we can supply identifications include Osage Hun-kah-hop-py, Little Squirrel, and Bacon Rind. The latter subject is one of several who appear in multiple images here, such as Hard Rope, Albert Penn, Big Hill, Laban Miles (notable Osage Indian agent), Black Bird, and possibly the Osage warrior Perry King. In addition to the portraits, there is one image featuring a cabin and a small graveyard.

Another image features a white man, who may be a young Morris Robacker, Osage chief of police, posed with three of his Native American agents. The pencil caption of one image featuring a Native American subject with a large lone feather stop his head is partially discernible, reading "Indian Police." Yet more images include manuscript captions, but are difficult to read, yet would perhaps be discernible to the more-trained eyes of scholarly researchers. A handful of the images are captioned in the negative, identifying subjects such as Mary Landrum (Osage); Osage twins in a papoose; "Lone Wolf" (probably Lone Wolf the Younger), "Bacon Rind," and "Red Eagle & Wife Osage Indians."

More than fifty of the images are captioned, many in pencil on the linen backings on which they are mounted, identifying numerous subjects. About twenty-five are easily read, including "Bull Bear & Son;" "Bull Bear's daughters;" Moon Shine; "Medicine Bear Sioux;" an image of a Native American man and two young children (captioned "Billy & daughters"); two separate images of White Antelope's daughters; an elderly man dressed in a U.S. military jacket (captioned "Old [illegible] Gen Custers Scout"); "Black Bird Gra-she-lu-sak;" an Osage named "Bro-ki-he-kah Big Hill;" "Cho-sha-wat-sah," also known as Good Man, indicated as "3d god" of the Osage in the present pencil caption; Red Wolf, a Sioux chief; "Red Wolf's daughter;" "Mrs. Pinkney Miles Big Hills;" "Theo. M Harvey Ah-Mah-hurta;" "Chief Mahmanit;" "Red Eagle Cheso-oken-kah;" "Hum pah ah grah Geo. Summers;" "White antelope" (not the chief who died at the Sand Creek Massacre but perhaps a descendant); Cheyenne Chief Wolf Robe posed with four other Native Americans, at least one of whom was also described as a chief of the Sioux; "Wah tsa wah ha Big Hill;" "Reginald Webster & brother;" "Hugh Miller" posed with an adolescent Native American; "Eme-op-pe & wife;" "Baron Ry ni and wife;" "Mrs Ongla Morra Ponikwa;" Osage "Peh tsa mon" with his family; "The Chiefs Family En-ses-tah-wah-ti-auck;" a pair of men posed with small tomahawks captioned "Delaware Ind[ians];" "Lone Bull & family;" "Mah-shah-ka-tah Lieut Governor;" and others.

Overall, the present photographs constitute an outstanding collection of images with a clear emphasis on Plains Indians and with an enigmatic back story regarding why they were created and how they were used. Combined with the clues provided by names and captions of subjects, this is an unparalleled opportunity to document many Osage families, while putting names to many indigenous faces, all with the potential to uncover an important element to the story of the business of Native American photography considering the materiality of the way they were retained. Unlike any collection of Native American images we've ever encountered, which should be seen to be fully appreciated.

Price: $37,500.00